Cleanliness is next to Godliness. A quote which Ghanaians and even children of school going age are quite familiar with. Beyond easily quoting it, cleanliness is hardly a practice which many adhere to in Ghana.
The filth that constantly engulfs our streets and chokes our drains is enough evidence. Thanks to artificial materials such as plastics and polystyrene which we use daily, coupled with a poor cleaning habit, the streets of Ghana are filled with filth. Ghana is the exact opposite of what pertains in Japan. Here are some important cleanliness tips to learn from the people of Japan.
Authorities and the general public can take a cue from these practices to create a cleaner and better Ghana.
Japan’s way to cleanliness
The students sit with their satchels on their desks, eager to get home after another long day of seven 50-minute classes. They listen patiently as their teacher makes a few announcements about tomorrow’s timetable. Then, as every day, the teacher’s final words: “OK everybody, today’s cleaning roster. Lines one and two will clean the classroom. Lines three and four, the corridor and stairs. And line five will clean the toilets.”
A few groans arise from line five, but the children stand up, grab the mops, cloths and buckets from the broom cupboard at the back of the classroom, and trot off to the toilets. Similar scenes are happening at schools across the country.
Visitors Admire the clean streets of Japan
Most first-time visitors to Japan are struck by how clean the country is. Then they notice the absence of litter bins. And street sweepers. So they’re left with the question: how does Japan stay so clean?
The easy answer is that residents themselves keep it that way. “For 12 years of school life, from elementary school to high school, cleaning time is part of students’ daily schedule,” said Maiko Awane, assistant director of Hiroshima Prefectural Government’s Tokyo office. “In our home life as well, parents teach us that it’s bad for us not to keep our things and our space clean.”
Including this element of social consciousness in the school curriculum helps the children develop an awareness of, and pride in, their surroundings. Who wants to dirty or deface a school that they have to clean up themselves?
“I sometimes didn’t want to clean the school,” recalled freelance translator Chika Hayashi, “but I accepted it because it was part of our routine. I think having to clean the school is a very good thing because we learn that it’s important for us to take responsibility for cleaning the things and places that we use.”
All Japanese citizenry adapt to a culture of cleanliness
On arriving at school, students leave their shoes in lockers and change into trainers. At home, too, people leave their street shoes at the entrance. Even workmen coming to your house will remove their shoes and pad around in their socks. And as the schoolchildren grow, their concept of what constitutes their space extends beyond the classroom to include their neighbourhood, their city and their country.
Some examples of extreme Japanese cleanliness have gone viral, like the seven-minute Shinkansen train-cleaning ritual that has become a tourist attraction in its own right.
Even Japan’s football supporters are cleanliness-conscious. In World Cup football tournaments in Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018), the national team’s fans amazed the world by staying behind to pick up rubbish from the stadium. The players also left their dressing room in immaculate condition. “What an example for all teams!” tweeted FIFA’s general coordinator Priscilla Janssens.
“We Japanese are very sensitive about our reputation in others’ eyes,” Awane said. “We don’t want others to think we are bad people who don’t have enough education or upbringing to clean things up.”
At a music festival
Similar scenes unfold at Japanese music festivals. At the Fuji Rock festival, Japan’s biggest and oldest festival, fans keep their rubbish with them until they find a bin. Smokers are instructed to bring a portable ashtray and to ‘refrain from smoking where your smoke can affect other people’, according to the festival website. How different to 1969’s Woodstock festival, where Jimi Hendrix played to a handful of people amid a vast morass of trash.
We don’t want others to think we are bad people who don’t have enough education or upbringing to clean things up
Examples of social awareness abound in daily life too. Around 08:00, for instance, office workers and shop staff clean the streets around their place of work. Children volunteer for the monthly community clean, picking up rubbish from the streets near their school. Neighbourhoods, too, hold regular street-cleaning events. Not that there’s much to clean, because people take their litter home.
How bank notes are handled
Even banknotes emerge from ATM’s as crisp and clean as a freshly starched shirt. Nevertheless, money gets dirty, which is why you never put it directly into someone’s hand. In shops, hotels and even in taxis, you’ll see a little tray to place the money. The other person then picks it up.
So how did the Japanese become so clean-conscious?
I’ll leave this question with readers to discover answers to. Perhaps our quest for answers will instill a greater need for cleanliness in most of us.
Part adapted from BBC